Families of the 298 people who died on Malaysian Airlines flight 17 (MH17) began testifying in a Dutch court Monday, September 6. The plane was shot down by a Russian missile while flying over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014.
An international investigation team (JIT) concluded that a Buk-TELAR missile system had been delivered from Kursk in Russia to Ukraine by the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade of the Russian Army. Russia denies all responsibility for shooting down the airliner.
In the trial, three Russians and a Ukrainian citizen are accused of murder. Russia has rejected Dutch extradition and access requests. Ninety family members are testifying over three weeks in the live-streamed event.
Coverage of the trial is sparse on Russian state media. The website of the Kremlin’s main international outlet, RT, has carried no news of the trial. Other state-owned outlets like Sputnik and RIA Novosti have either ignored or misrepresented what the relatives said in court. Instead, these outlets have often repeated debunked claims made by Russian officials about the MH17 incident.
On September 6, RIA Novosti ran a story headlined, “A relative of the victims of the MH17 crash accused Kyiv of not closing the airspace.”
That misleading headline, implying that Ukraine was to blame for the incident, was based on an interview with Robbert van Heijningen, who lost his brother, sister-in-law, and nephew in the tragedy. At the time the plane was downed, of course, Russian-backed separatists were at war with Ukraine in its Donbas region along the Russian border.